This is something I have been meaning to post for a very long time, but one of the issues that so many of my photographer friends have is not tagging their pictures. Or if they do tag, they are all over the map thinking that a ton of tags are what is going to drive the picture views. If you are using more than 20 tags on your images you are typing too much. Really what you want to do is work out a plan for how you want to tag, keeping in mind the most popular tags on Smugmug and Flickr will cross over to Deviant Art and 500PX. They should work on instagram but that is a different audience and I don’t really do instagram. They will work on Tumblr, but Tumblr is pretty much so fragmented into communities. So you are going to want to use community specific tags over there for your pictures.
For this article though I am just going to go over the most popular tags on Smugmug and Flickr. They are the two major warehouses for images, used by people all over the world, and store hundreds of terabytes of data that people are going to be looking through. There are millions of pictures uploaded to both services every day, so you need to be smart about tagging to cut through all the noise. The good part is that Smugmug and Flickr both make it easy to find what people are looking for on their sites, and gives you a lot of information about popular keywords.
Smugmug – Surprise, Smugmug only indexes the first 30 keywords and tags, if you added more than that, Smugmug is going to totally ignore them. Smugmug also has a great page of recommendations here, but the real heart and soul of the system is Smugmug’s own search page. The Keyword cloud is one way of finding out what people are searching for on the Smugmug site. It looks like this, and is really hard to find with the redesign. You can find your own keyword cloud at yoursite.smugmug.com/keywords/ but they might not be what people are really looking for.
This is where Flickr comes to the rescue with their own keyword cloud right here. You can see three sets on Flickr, last 24 hours, last week, or all time. I usually use the all time keywords as they are somewhat the same across both Smugmug and Flickr for tagging your pictures with the right keywords. This does not mean that you will suddenly get millions of picture views a day, but it does help Google, Bing and Yahoo find your stuff better. It also helps people who search internally to the picture warehouses find your stuff better as well.
From a user perspective, you want to try to use the same keywords on both sites, and Flickr’s cloud is pretty similar to Smugmug’s hard to find hide and seek keyword cloud. Adding keywords is one of the only ways that a search engine is going to know what your picture is, and what it is about. Remember though, Flickr has the same kind of cut off for keywords, if you are keyword stuffing then you pretty much so are working too hard.
Use the right keywords for your photo or video. If it is not about California, then don’t include it, if it is about Hawaii then use the keyword Hawaii and if traveling use the keyword travel. For example when I am in Beijing every summer I always come back with thousands of pictures. I break each set into their own location, like the Forbidden City, add the year, and then add china, Beijing, travel, and other key words to describe the area I am in.
It is always important to use keywords wisely. Google and other search engines are onto keyword stuffing and other techniques to try to gain page views. Most of your searches especially on Flickr are going to come from other Flickr users. Smugmug is about 50% internal and 50% external users for search. Keywords are the way to have people find your images.